People Watching in the ER

I rolled into the emergency room of Mission Hospital in Asheville NC some time after sunset. Literally, I rolled because my legs wouldn’t work. Well, my wife rolled me in a chair we stole from labor and delivery. It had stirrups.

I couldn’t see the lady behind the computer from my lower vantage point but I heard her fingernails on the keyboard. “Name and date of birth.”

I gave her my name and date of birth.
“Reason for visit?”
“My legs don’t work.”

She stepped out from the counter holding a stack of papers. Curly hair dangled over her glasses like a blonde and much more uptight Mrs. Frizzle, for those of you who remember The Magic School Bus. She wore nursing scrubs but she would have fit in better as an angry librarian.

“Have they ever worked?” she asked.
“No,” I said, “I just now found out, after twenty eight years, that most people can walk.”

She looked at me past the glasses on her nose. A chain dangled from the earpieces and around her pencil neck. Her lips pressed together until they were whiter than the skin around them.

“Normally, they work fine,” my wife said.

I rolled, or my wife rolled me, to the triage area. A nurse who looked like Ed Sheeran and Arya Stark’s love child and went by the name Aaron put a pressure cuff on my arm. I had to hold a thermometer under my tongue and a pulse checker thing on my finger while the cuff tried to sever my bicep.

“One thirty over eighty, that seems high to me,” I said.
“It stopped, I don’t know why it keeps doing this.” Aaron pressed a few beeping buttons and the torture device activated again.

“Where the hell am I?” a man who looked like the first Dumbledore posing as Charles Manson in a biker jacket shouted. I thought for a moment that he would get out of his chair and rampage the triage. He didn’t.

A toe headed baby boy with blue eyes stared at me. Maybe it was the shopping cart of a wheelchair or my green skeleton pajamas but something about me fascinated this kid. I waved at him. He climbed his dad, who looked like Skinny Pete from Breaking Bad and Eminem swapped faces.

Slim Skinny blew a raspberry on baby Steve Rogers and the kid laughed a more earnest laugh than I had heard since before we dropped my daughter off at my in laws. He reminded me of her and I wished I was home snuggling her instead of looking at these people.

“Alright,” Aaron said, “head to the blue waiting room.”

Yes, this trauma center stayed busy enough for separate waiting rooms. The green one was where Dumblemanson and Slim Skinny sat, it was for people awaiting triage. The purple and orange waiting rooms were under construction. Everyone there had to wait in the blue one.

We stopped at the security center for my wife to get a visitor’s badge. A big and bald security guard took her picture and printed it out. A nurse approached the station.

“We’ve got to get him to a room.” She she ran her hand over her face.
“Oooooooohhhhhh, can I get a drink?” A ghostly wail emanated from the waiting room.

“Where are we going to sit?” my wife asked.
“Um…” I said.
“I don’t want to sit near that.” She pointed to the man calling out life the ghost of Jacob Marley.

She wheeled me over to a snack machine and got herself a coke. I sat in the canteen area and made jokes about my situation on Facebook.

“Would we hear if they called me in here?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” she said.

A guy who looked like Mateo from Superstore sat next to a Dom Deluise look alike. The big and hairy one spoke softly enough for me not too hear him. The other one, though, had a voice like Vizzini from The Princess Bride traveling through an amplifier.

“How did you get there if you didn’t take I-80?”
“But I-40 doesn’t go that far.”
“So, you just get straight on 74, or do you take another road to get there?”

The sound of someone attacking Starship Enterprise interrupted the human mapquest. I looked up to see the stereotypical North Carolina resident with a five year old girl sleeping on her chest. She checked her notification and went back to whatever time wasting Facebook game she was playing.

I thought a nurse would come to get me after two hours of listening to human mapquest give directions, the ghostly moans of Jacob fucking Marley, and a goddamn space battle. Instead, a guy doing his best to emulate Dolph Lungren walked by.

“You don’t work here, you’re just a visitor,” I said under my breath, or so I thought.

He looked back at me like he dropped something and suspected that I stole it. After a while, he came back and silently faded me to say anything. I didn’t, I sat there staring at one particular tile on the floor.

I came out of the ER six hours later with no answers but a valuable lesson on writing.

Never waste an opportunity to watch people interacting in public.


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